How the Corona Virus Outbreak in China Has Touched Our Lives

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As novel coronavirus pneumonia has spread across China, it has touched the lives of those of us living in the country or with family and friends there. Here are some of our WWAM BAM contributors sharing some of their experiences in the wake of the epidemic:

Jocelyn Eikenburg, Speaking of China

Beijing, where I reside, hasn’t been as hard hit as the epicentre of the outbreak, in Wuhan of Hubei province, but the epidemic has still affected our lives here, which I also blogged about in more detail recently in my post How the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Has Changed My Daily Life Here in China.

At the office, I’ve been a lot busier because I work as an editor for a news organization. Even during the holidays, we’ve had a really heavy load of stories, mainly because of the outbreak.

I still go to the office to work, because it’s literally right around the corner from where I live, but most of my colleagues aren’t there, instead working from home, as Beijing and many other places in China have encouraged such flexible work arrangements that don’t involve going out or commuting.

The company asks us to report our health and situation to them every day as well.

On the quick walk between office and home, I only encounter a small handful of people – usually five, never more than 10. Everyone has their face covered with a mask.

Our community now only allows residents to enter – so we must pick up all deliveries at the gate – and when entering we must pass a temperature check. Anyone with a fever at or above 37.3 C will have to go to the hospital. So far everyone at the community has been fine.

Change isn’t easy, and of course, with this outbreak and all the related adjustments, we all have to deal with the uncertainty involved. But I understand and respect the measures, which aim to bring the outbreak under control as soon as possible. My husband and I do what we can, such as being careful with hygiene and avoiding going out, unless absolutely necessary. I will continue to work, stay positive and pray for the people on the front line as well as the patients and everyone else directly affected by the virus.

Julia Chen

Because of Chongqing’s close proximity to Hubei province, the situation is a bit precarious here. Everything happened so fast.

My personal timeline is as follows:

  1. On January 21st I couldn’t find masks after going to several pharmacies, so I thought I’d just be careful but live as normal.
  2. On January 22nd I was able to purchase five masks, and felt it was okay to go out as long as we were wearing masks.
  3. On January 23rd I decided to stay home until the outbreak is contained. It’s now been 19 days since I’ve left my complex.

Within those few days, I came to the crucial realization that this virus wasn’t just a problem in another place; this was something that could affect anyone anywhere, and by January 23rd it became clear that it had already begun to.

I believe things are going quite well in Chongqing, considering the circumstances. The measures being taken—such as closing stores and offices, requiring masks on public transportation, and new complex rules limiting the comings and goings of residents—will help the virus be contained faster. Not only that, but the majority of people are doing their part and are determined to help in any way they can—even if that just means lounging around at home indefinitely. This “lounger” is really grateful for the people bravely working to contain the outbreak, so I figure the least I can do is not add to their to-do list.

For now, until further notice, I’m staying home with my husband and our two toddlers. I’ve been battling cabin fever by exercising daily and singing, and husband has been cooking up new dishes. Meanwhile, the boys are having the time of their lives and driving us completely crazy!

Felicity Miller

The coronavirus is so far yet so close to home. My mother-in-law who we haven’t seen in five years finally got a visa to visit us and her grandkids in the UK. However, she is now stuck in China and her visit has been delayed. Last week we even received a phone call to ask if a family member had recently returned to the UK from China because a local British person was concerned their fever was due to a brief business meeting between the two.

In 2002/3 I was living in China during SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The gap year organisation responsible for us offered return flights home but the majority of the volunteers chose to stay in their projects. This year, however, they have flown home all the volunteers. If that had happened during the Sars period I would never have met my husband.

I think the measures put in place to bring the spread of the virus under control will change the paths of many people: some relationships will be unexpectedly formed; there is likely to be an increase of unplanned pregnancies, some celebrated while some will need time to adjust; other relationships may crumble and crack under the pressure of quarantine while others blossom; those getting creative may continue and grow a newly discovered passion.

I for one can’t wait for the quarantine to come to a successful end, plane ticket prices to drop, and to give my mother-in-law a long-awaited bear hug.

Holly Hollins

The moment of writing this, I am currently on lockdown on campus in Shanghai. Luckily, I am getting great support from the school. The International Student Office is becoming more and more strict each day. First, we were able to leave campus whenever, but now we must register a day ahead in order to go outside of campus. Second, due to not being able to freely leave campus, ISO is collaborating with a local grocery store to help deliver groceries for international students at the school. However, despite the drawbacks of being “quarantined” on campus, I know that it is a great time to work on my thesis for my upcoming graduation. This crucial period is a reminder that life is precious and how we must take care of ourselves and check on those who are important to us. It is also important how we must combat this together. Yes, even though I am a person who grew up in an individualistic society, I do agree with fighting this outbreak together. Not just in China, but throughout the world. There are a lot of Sinophobic and xenophobic reactions to this virus and I hope that the rest of the world can try to be more open-minded during this difficult time.

Susie Hart

My daughter and I arrived back in Beijing a few days before Chinese New Year. That ended up being right around the time that everyone was starting to understand the seriousness of the virus and starting to take action. Initially, I was selfishly annoyed by the timing – if only I had known a few days earlier, we could have stayed in Australia and enjoyed the late summer weather!

But now I’m glad we came back when we did. It would have been awful to be separated from my husband for an unknown length of time and to have him home alone all this time. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve been enjoying having this time at home together as a family. When the air has been ok and it’s not too cold outdoors, we’ve been going out to play in the snow and venturing out to the supermarket to buy things.

We’re not on any kind of lockdown in our area, but there has been hardly anyone around or on the roads each time we go outside. I worry about the small business owners that I know and friends working for companies who are being affected by the shutdown in China. I think the long-term financial aspect of the virus will be felt by many people, unfortunately.

My husband has been fairly busy with work even during the actual holiday period. He works in HR and needed to help out with answering employee concerns and helping to organise how and when the employees would go back to work. They have officially just started their second week working from home with no set date when the offices will reopen. I think we’re fortunate that he works for a big company in an industry not directly affected by the impact of shutting down most of the country for some time. But working from home with an active 3-year-old is not ideal.

I know people are doing it really tough now – those who are sick, and those working to help them, those in lockdown in Wuhan and other areas. Some people in smaller places finding it hard to get supplies. We are quite safe in Beijing with good supplies and low numbers of infections so far. Let’s hope we have reached the peak of virus numbers and soon can head back to normal life.

Kimberly, Nama Mama

Being under quarantine here in Xining, Qinghai has not been bad for our family. Our whole family stays inside for days on end with my husband occasionally putting on his mask and stepping out to get groceries or other things we need.

My biggest challenge is entertaining our two kids aged 6 and 1. Aside from watching movies, we have been working on making a spaceship out of a big cardboard box, homework, taking naps, soaking up the sunshine, and playing games.

My husband has been able to get creative and fix or improve some of our furniture. I have been tweaking the recipe for my popular pumpkin bread. Recently we went out for a drive to get out of the house and to get an idea of what our city is really like. I suspect it is like most other cities in China now, except less strict.

Currently, I am in the process of getting a new job, and that has been paused due to the virus. While I am looking forward to life getting back to normal, I also enjoy this uninterrupted family time, which we likely wouldn’t have were the situation different.

Are you locked in or locked out? Fed up or in fear? Want to share your experience? Let us know below

Photo credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Record-type_hypodermic_syringe,_London,_England_Wellcome_L0057737.jpg

3 comments

  1. I had the flu and then pneumonia in 2018. It was so serious I was hospitalized for two weeks. Ever since then I’ve been really careful about catching any viruses or getting sick. My husband and I knew there was a virus going around, but didn’t realize how serious it was until Wuhan was put on lockdown. Just DAYS later, I started having a cough, problems with breathing, a temperature of 38 degrees–but I had never left the house, only my husband did once to get groceries. I actually got taken to the hospital in an ambulance after two women in hazmat suits came to disinfect our apartment. Thankfully, it was only Bronchitis. No Coronavirus. But seriously, shit timing, immune system.
    We’re in Zhengzhou, Henan, China. we have over 1000 cases in the province now. It’s definitely not as bad as some other places, but everyone here is very cautious. Even apartment complexes in the area (including ours) are pretty much on lockdown. You’re only allowed to leave the area between the hours of 9am-11am. Otherwise, you’re stuck at home. My husband talked to me yesterday about if I had a chance to go back to America during this outbreak, I should go. But there’s just no way I could do that.

  2. That must have been quite a nerve-racking experience! Glad to hear you’re ok.

    I think it’s good to be careful of course, but some regulations don’t make sense to me – like making everyone go out between 9 and 11. Doesn’t that just mean everyone is out at the same time, i.e. more people in the local supermarket together?!

    Sometimes seems there needs to be a bit more logic and less rigid rules.

    It’s a big question for WWAM families about potentially going home to our own country and leaving our partner or his parents in China. Not an easy decision for anyone. Thankfully it still seems safer just to stay in our homes as much as possible for now.

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